Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

ASK THE VET ; the Five Pillars of Cat Happiness

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

ASK THE VET ; the Five Pillars of Cat Happiness

Article excerpt

I am freshly inspired after a great continuing education meeting a few weeks ago. It was hosted by the American Association of Feline Practitioners and the topic was feline behavior and respiratory diseases. I had assumed that we were going to learn how to adequately medicate cats with the likes of Prozac and Xanax to try to curb soiling outside of the litter box and soothe inter-cat aggression. But, oh no, it was more focused on what normal cat behavior is and how to enrich their environment to keep them happier - and as a result they might not feel compelled to start exhibiting negative behaviors.

Ah, really? Stop any problems before they start? That is preventative behavior therapy! That is where we have needed to be with our feline friends all along.

There was tons of information to absorb, but my favorite was the five pillars of a healthy feline environment. These are things we as pet owners need to provide to our cats to enrich their lives and allow them to be cats. It reminds me of the phrase, "When kitty is not happy, nobody is happy."

* The first pillar is to provide a safe place for your cat. Cats would really prefer to avoid confrontation than to fight. Fighting could result in an injury and hamper their ability to hunt and survive. Cardboard boxes, shelves and perches, as well as an open carrier in places around the house, are all great safe places for cats to go.

* The second pillar is to provide multiple and separated areas for water, food, litter boxes, resting and playing. Cats also need multiple scratching areas. These need to be easily accessible to the cat at all times without being challenged by other cats or animals in the house.

Lots of options give them peace of mind and take away the stress of "how am I going to go to the bathroom with the dog by my litter box? And another common cat stressor of "I'm starving. There's no food in my bowl because the dog ate it, again!

* The third pillar is to provide an opportunity for play and predatory behavior. Cats really, really like to hunt. They will hunt each other, dogs, prey and you. If left in the wild, they would spend most of their day hunting.

Try hiding food in multiple locations and scattering it on the floor, or even using puzzle feeders to encourage their instinct to seek and eat. …

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